Who shot Miles Archer? It doesn’t really matter. The characters and dialogue in
The Maltese Falcon are so vivid that this question is ignored throughout most of
the story. The novel's atmosphere is dense as a San Francisco fog, and its descriptions
of locations are so accurate that many can been pinpointed on a map (Don Herron’s
Hammett Tour visits many of these sites in person).
Falcon debuted in serial form in five issues of Black Mask, between September 1929
and January 1930. The hardback edition became available in February 1930.
Sam Spade, like the Continental Op, was a San Francisco private detective. Unlike
the Op, he didn’t work for a big agency; he also lacked the Op’s hard-and-fast ethical
code. For a great deal of the story, it’s hard to tell which side he’s on.
Although Hammett never managed to write the "serious mainstream novels" that he had
hoped to, many consider The Maltese Falcon to be a classic in its own right.
Shown here is a shopping bag from Barnes and Noble. Here we see Hammett's Falcon
sharing space with immortal works by Steinbeck, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and other giants
- exactly the company in which Hammett hoped he would be remembered, although not
necessarily for his detective novels.
SAMPLES OF VARIOUS EDITIONS
Knopf, 1930 (hardback with dust jacket. The later Grosset & Dunlap version was virtually
Modern Library, 1934 (hardback with dust jacket)
Modern Library, 1934 (hardback with dust jacket. Rare alternate version)
Pocket, 1945 (paperback. This is the actual cover. and...
...this is the sexied-up dust jacket. Yes, it’s a paperback with a dust jacket!)
Knopf, 1945 (hardback with dust jacket. Black Widow Thriller edition)
Zephyr, 1945 (hardback with dust jacket)
Pan, 1951 (paperback)
Panther, 1957 (paperback)
Perma, 1957 (paperback, reusing the Pocket artwork from 1945)
Perma, 1961 (paperback)
Penguin, 1963 (paperback)
Dell, 1966 (paperback)
Penguin, 1966 (paperback)
Vintage, 1972 (paperback)
Casell, 1973 (hardback with dust jacket)
Pan, 1975 (paperback)
Book Club Associates, 1977 (hardback with dust jacket)
Pan, 1977 (paperback)
North Point Press, 1984 (hardback with dust jacket)
In 1957, The Maltese Falcon was included in a hardcover set of mysteries that also
featured Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and John Buchan’s The 39 Steps. The spines
were always red with gold lettering, but the color of the covers varied in some sets.
Books on Tape, unabriged, read by Michael Pritchard, 1980
Cassette Book Company, abridged, read by Daniel Chodos, 1982
Audiobooks, abridged, read by Tony Roberts, 1985
Isis, unabridged, read by William Dufris, 1997
Audio Partners, unabridged, read by William Dufris, 2004
Blackstone Audio, dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky, 2008
BBC Audiobooks, starring Tom Wilkinson as Sam Spade, 2009
Naxos Audio Books, an “idiomatic new recording” by Eric Meyers, 2011
Over the years, there has been some confusion about The Maltese Falcon's dedication.
Even Michael Pritchard, who voiced the Books on Tape version of the novel (and should
have known better) mistakenly assumed "Jose" was a hispanic man, and pronounced it
In reality, "Jose" (pronounced "Joe's" or "JO-see," depending who you ask) was Josephine
Dolan Hammett, the author's wife. Sadly, by the time Falcon was released in hardback,
the Hammetts had separated.
A BOX FOR YOUR FIRST EDITION FALCON
For the serious collector, a company offers custom-made sleeves designed to fit the
Knopf first edition of Falcon. The cost? Upwards of one hundred dollars...
Russian (featuring an illustration of The Shadow, for no particular reason)
THE MALTESE FALCON SOCIETY
The Maltese Falcon Society was a San Francisco-based organization that existed off
and on from 1977 through the 1980s. It served as a forum for fans of Dashiell Hammett
in particular and hard-boiled detective fiction in general.
Meeting at John’s Grill on Ellis Street (where Sam Spade dined on chops, baked potato
and sliced tomatoes in Chapter XVII of Falcon), the Society had a variety of guest
speakers, including hard-boiled novelist Charles Willeford. The Society folded for
good in the late 1980s.
The Society may be gone, but John's Grill is still "The Home of the Maltese Falcon." Their
second floor dining room is a practically a Falcon museum, with many large blow-ups
of scenes from the film adorning the walls. A replica of the black bird itself is
THE MALTESE FALCON MAP: WHERE IT ALL HAPPENS
THE MALTESE FALCON ON THE BIG SCREEN
As you probably know, The Maltese Falcon was made into a classic movie starring Humphrey
Bogart as Spade. What you may not know is that the Bogie version was actually the
third time the novel was filmed.